Starting a task is always easier than finishing, and the University of Mary's 6-7 women's basketball record bears mute testimony to that fact.
The Marauders had been a first-half team while losing four of their five pre-Christmas games.
They turned that around, in spades, on Saturday at the McDowell Activity Center. U-Mary outscored Minnesota-Duluth 20-5 over the final seven minutes to upset the Bulldogs 65-51.
Duluth lost for just the second time in eight starts to fall to 7-3 on the season, 4-2 in the Northern Sun Conference. U-Mary won its second straight to improve to 6-7, 2-5 in conference play.
Cassie Askvig, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, was the instigator of U-Mary's uprising, scoring 25 points, ripping down 18 rebounds and blocking five shots.
Askvig said Saturday's victory was just what the Marauders needed in a couple of respects. First, they put together a strong final 20 minutes and, secondly, they dominated a good team down the stretch.
"We wanted to close out a game so badly. We've been struggling with that all year," Askvig noted. "We want to show other teams we're a threat for the whole 40 minutes."
The victory didn't come as easily as the final score would indicate.
UMD opened leads of 13-5, 21-13 and 27-22 in the first half, but each time U-Mary fought back to pull within a point.
The Marauders finally caught and passed the Bulldogs in the first minute of the second half. Askvig's layup with seven seconds elapsed in the third period gave U-Mary a 28-27 lead.
In the third quarter the lead changed hands six times, and the fourth period began the same way.
Askvig scored on a drive to put U-Mary up 45-44. Sammy Kozlowski popped in a 10-footer to give UMD a 46-45 advantage. A nifty move in the paint by Askvig put the Marauders on top 47-46, and this time the host team remained in control.
Askvig's basket kicked off a 20-5 spree that left Duluth well back in the rear view mirror.
Senior guard Dani Williams scored seven of U-Mary's final 20 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer that put UMD in a 50-46 hole. Askvig contributed six points to the game-winning burst.
Duluth burned the Marauders for three fast-break baskets in the first half, two by Payton Kahl and one by Ann Simonet, but for the most part kept the Bulldog running game under control. Duluth was unable to develop a transition game when confronted with a 53-30 rebounding deficit.
"Rebounding can win games and tonight it did," Askvig said. "A huge part of that is the coaches pushing rebounding, and we push each other to rebound."
As badly as the Marauders needed a win, Askvig said there was more to the triumph over Duluth than a blip in the NSIC standings.
"We decided that we'd be a tougher team than them," she observed. "It's not just about the standings ... it's about proving to ourselves what we can do. It's important to team morale."
Askvig tallied a dozen of U-Mary's 39 second-half points and Dani Williams scored all of her nine points after intermission. Gabbie Bohl, a 6-2 sophomore, notched eight of her 14 points after the break.
Emma Boehm, a 5-11 junior, paced Duluth with 10 points, five in each half. She was the only one of UMD's eight scorers to reach double figures.
U-Mary coach Rick Neumann said the Marauder man-to-man defense was strong from start to finish.
"I kept telling our girls that if we continued to guard the way we had all game we'd find a run," Neumann said.
Like Askvig, Neumann said the strong finish was an encouraging development.
"We've struggled to finish games, but the last two games (Minot State and Duluth) we've been the more poised team and we've extended leads in the fourth quarter," he observed.
Neumann's said Askvig's contributions were obvious, but noted that Lauren Rotunda did a spectacular defensive job on Kozlowski, Duluth's junior point guard.
"Kozlowski is one of the top point guards in the conference," Neumann noted.
Kozlowski entered the game averaging 13.2 points and six assists. She finished Saturday's contest with nine points and five assists.
The Marauders return to action at 2 p.m. today, playing host to another NSIC opponent, St. Cloud State (3-2, 6-3).